Rules of the Road (Bali Version)

By Richard Boughton

The first and most important thing to remember about driving the roads of Bali is that in practice there are no rules. Keeping this in mind, I will set forth a few points of general reference that may serve for some modicum of safety in the daily death match of Indonesian vehicular interaction.

1. Pay no attention whatsoever to the road signs, for they are:
A. Wrong, and so:
B. Superfluous, and:
C. May well distract your attention from what is imminent, i.e. the cars and/or motorbikes bearing down from behind and on either side.
D. In addition, road signs, where they exist, are usually hidden by overgrown tree branches and foliage anyway, such that they may as well not be there to begin with.

2. Pay no attention to the traffic lights, for they are:
A. So rare that drivers are inclined to forget what they mean, and:
B. Generally considered an annoyance, causing a reduction in speed, and so universally ignored.
C. In any case, always remember that both Red and Green mean Go.

3. The purpose of turn signals is not fully understood among the general populace. Therefore, never use your turn signal. If anything, it will simply reveal your intention to switch lanes, at which point other drivers will race forward and cut you off.

4. Always make liberal use of your horn. It is a good exercise for otherwise inactive digits, keeps other drivers angry and on edge and has a pleasing sound compared to a gamelan orchestra.

5. A one-way road sign is not a restriction. It is quite clear that one cannot go more than one way at a time. You may go in this direction or in that direction, but not in both directions at once. You see? Therefore, as long as you are going one way or the other, you’re fine, and safely within the bounds of natural law.

6. The rule of the road here in Bali is that one drives on the left. But on the left of what? One soon observes that the white line running down the centre of the road is in no way connected to this left- and right-sided business. It is either there for aesthetic purposes only or to indicate that there is an entire lane open to through travel. Why there are other cars or bikes occasionally trying to use this lane for travel in the opposite direction remains a mystery.

7. Similarly, a sidewalk is not a path for pedestrians but a further extension of the main road, and should be used whenever the flow of the main artery is deemed too slow. As far as pedestrians go, it is generally agreed that:
A. They have feet; let them run, and:
B. Schoolchildren are particularly expendable.

8. Policemen who are merely standing or waving their warms or blowing whistles may be completely ignored. Do, however, stop for the ones who are carrying machineguns.

9. When dropping your child at school, teach him the art of bailing out, then tucking and rolling towards the front entrance of the building. (Stopping at the sidewalk will be of no avail – see No.8). The main issue here is the safety of your own child. If you happen to come upon someone else’s, smile and pass on through.

10. Never, never leave more than 1/4 inch between your front bumper and another vehicle’s rear. It’s just not done.
Happy motoring!

Richard can be contacted via

Filed under: Practical Paradise

One Response to “Rules of the Road (Bali Version)”

  1. Paul (Jimbaran) Says:

    The main rule to remember is that all Balinese think they are the only one on the road that day so don’t need any rules like looking before turning in front of you. Happy motoring!